When it comes to clean air in Britain’s town and cities, Doncaster building products manufacturer Pennine Stone could be part of the solution.
It is early days, but the Carcroft based company is currently working with one of Britain’s top universities on a project which could help clear the air by using moss to soak up pollution.
The firm has been working with The Bartlett School of Architecture, part of University College London, on a product that would enable moss to be planted within the walls of building, to absorb carbon dioxide.
The firm, which creates tough stone products through sand and cement, created stone blocks with patterned grooves. When moss is grown in the grooves, it creates an attractive pattern.
The hope is that it will also play a role in cleaning the air, and the project will looking into that.
It is a project that has drawn international interest, and the team from Pennine Stone were recently displaying the project at the Pompidou Centre in Paris as part of an exhibition.
Panels are being installed in parts of London to see how well the idea works.
Pennine Stone managing director Richard Walsh said: “Lots of people plant green walls, where plants grown on a wall, but the plants need constant care. But moss, looked after properly, can look dead but come back to life when it rains. The idea is that it would indefinitely suck pollutants out of the air.”
It is one of the more unusual projects which have involved the firm.
Pennine Stone creates stone products using moulds. It uses a mixture of sand and cement.
Builders up and down the country come to the firm when they need decorative features for their properties.
They may be decorative features around doors and windows. Popular items include columns to go alongside doors, pediments to go above doors and windows, and name plaques. The can even create coats of arms in stone.
A good example of their work is the stone entrance sign at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
Around two thirds of the firm’s work is used by major housebuilders, who buy standard products to improve the appearance of their home. Most of the rest of the work is for what they describe as ‘bespoke projects’, usually projects to build large one-off homes for wealthly clients who have commissioned their own designs, and want attractive decorative detail on the walls.
They have been manufacturing the products from their Askern Road factory since 2001, and currently employ 107 staff, making 2,000 stone products a day.
Mr Walsh sees the firm as a barometer for the economy. When the construction industry is busy, Pennine Stone is busy. They saw tough times during the recession that followed the 2008 banking crash, but have bounced back and are expanding again.
One of the growth areas at present is a product called glass re-enforced concrete. The product is the same, reconstructed stone as is used in other products, but uses glass fibre to give the stone a high tensile strength, using a similar principle to that used in most re-enforced concrete.
Mr Walsh is chairman of the Glass Re-enforced Concrete Association.
It is becoming popular as a material to use on the outside of buildings, and has the big safety advantage that concrete is not flammable – an issue that has been high profile since the Grenfell Tower disaster two years ago.
“It is a great product that we have been supplying for a number of years,” said Mr Walsh. “What we are seeing now is that we are expanding in that area. It is being used more on the outside of large buildings, and we are looking at a number of large projects that might require some further expansion. That may create more jobs here.”